Western Province drew their opening Currie Cup match of the season on Saturday but Allister Coetzee believes his group of youngsters can develop into a team capable of winning the trophy.
Speaking after his team's 26-26 draw with Griquas at Newlands, Province head coach Coetzee said many of the players were young and inexperienced but had substantial ability and talent and had the potential to develop into a Currie Cup-winning team.
He had handed out eight Western Province ties to players in the dressing-room after the game - to eight rookies making their Currie Cup debuts - and when these players gained in experience and new combinations grew, there would be considerable improvement.
Asked by this website whether these players could win the Currie Cup, Coetzee commented: "Without a doubt. I think there's no shortage of ability and talent and if you look at the stats we've dominated this game - against an experienced side. We dominated territorially and in possession stats.
"Yes, we can develop these guys into a Currie Cup-winning side, without a doubt."
Discussing the performance against Griquas the coach said: "It's not nice to draw, especially not at home, but having said that I think it's a good start for us.
"We said during the week that this game would give us a clear indication of where we are with a group of young players and I'm quite pleased with what I saw out there.
"We had a lot of opportunities. If we had taken them it could have been a different result altogether. We butchered a lot of opportunities, as expected from a young team and new combinations, but it is frustrating for the players and the coaches as well.
"We've just got to be patient. To draw against an experienced Griquas side, there are a lot of positives."
Coetzee believed youthfulness and inexperience, and having had only a week and two days together to prepare for the game, had contributed to Province dominating the game on statistics but not being able to secure victory.
Line-outs needed attention but this would improve once the pack of forwards - a new combination - got accustomed to their systems.
"We want to do well in the Currie Cup," the coach said, "but we also want to select players in the Currie Cup who can make the step-up to the Super 15. It's no use just preparing for the Currie Cup and then next year we fall short again when you need to fill in for injuries to top players.
"The Currie Cup remains the priority but the youngsters need to keep growing in their positions."
Having tries scored against them from 100 metres out and 80 metres out made for "hard lessons", Coetzee believed.
"You've got to respect the ball. You can't play for 60 metres and get five metres away and then turn it over. You get punished. Griquas are a side who live off turnovers and they scored their two tries from turnovers. It's a hard lesson for the group of youngsters to learn."
Discussing the performance of flank Siya Kolisi - a member of the SA under 20 team at the recent IRB championship - Coetzee said he had shown his ability as a ball-carrier; he had taken his opportunity to impress but there were aspects of his game that he needed to sharpen up.
"He's a very talented player, a good prospect - like all the youngsters we saw in the Super 15."
Asked why Province had opted to tap and run the ball instead of kicking for goal when awarded a penalty at the end of the game, Coetzee said the kick had been beyond the range of Demetri Catrakilis, who had just come onto the field at flyhalf as substitute for the injured Gary an Aswegen. Since it was the last movement of the match, there was no time to kick for touch either.
Province captain on the day Deon Fourie - in the injury-enforced absence of Currie Cup captain Duane Vermeulen and vice captain Dewaldt Duvenage - said a lack of patience in adhering to structures and taking the ball through phases had been disappointing but the players were excited by how many opportunities they had created on attack.
"We said in the changing-room this is only the first game and there are 14 games left and we'll build on this," Fourie said.
By Len Kaplan at Newlands
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